HC Deb 20 March 1867 vol 186 cc215-50

Order for Second Reading read.


, in moving that the Bill be now read the second time, said, he would not trespass long on the attention of the House—the subject had been so fully and so frequently discussed in that House, and the arguments on both sides had been so frequently repeated, that he would only make a few observations on the present position of the question. He had been accused, on the one hand, of omitting to press his measure through all its stages last Session, and on the other hand of showing an excess of zeal in bringing forward the same measure again this Session. After the intimation given last year by the right hon. Member for South Lancashire (Mr. Gladstone) as to his intention to introduce other Amendments, or a substantive measure of his own, the next stage of the Bill was postponed to enable him to do so; and therefore, after last year's debate on the subject, it was of great importance that he (Mr. Hardcastle) should introduce his Bill again at as early a period as possible this Session. Since the debates of last year the occupants of the opposite Benches had changed places. Last Session some of the right hon. Gentlemen who then sat on the Opposition side of the House—he might mention two of them; the present Secretary of State for War and the Chancellor of the Exchequer—expressed their views that this question was one of such a character as ought to be taken in hand by the Government, and that it was beyond the strength of any private Member to carry. These Gentlemen were now sitting on the Ministerial Benches, and he thought it but right that they should in office have the opportunity of expressing their opinions upon the subject, and of introducing a measure if they liked; a course from which they would not be deterred (if they might be judged from their conduct on other questions) by the fact that some Members of the Cabinet entertained diametrically opposite views to the rest. In most great controversies—and this, which had lasted for more than a generation, and which had occupied so much attention, might fairly be considered a great controversy—in most great controversies there was a certain tendency on the part of the disputants to shift the ground which they at first occupied. In the old days of church rate martyrs—Thorogood and others—what was most heard on one side was the argument based on conscience, and on the other the assertion that common honesty required the payment of church rates so long as they remained the law of the land. By degrees the question assumed greater prominence, while the well-known Braintree case was dragging its slow length through the courts. About the time of the close of that case, when the House of Lords had finally declared how the law stood, a Committee sat in another place and took evidence which again tended to alter very much the line of argument pursued by those who defended the church rate. The opponents of the rate were told that they had ulterior objects in view—that they did not care so much to abolish the church rate as to destroy a much more important institution, the Church of England. That was the stock argument up to the debate of last year, when some remarkable speeches were made, and one in particular, by an hon. Gentleman who, he regretted to say, was no longer a Member of that House (Mr. Morley), but who he hoped before long to see again amongst them. They seemed then to have reached the last stage of the argument; and the chief remaining difficulty appeared to be how to provide for the maintenance of the fabric and services of the Church. Since that time it appeared to him that there was a feeling on the other (the Ministerial) side of the house to consult amongst themselves and with those on this side as to the best means of providing for those objects. The question was therefore no longer a mere attack on the church rate on the one side, or of defence on the other. They had had many schemes of compromise suggested, but he believed they had all now been abandoned. They had long passed the time when such proposals would be made as that the expenses of the Church should be paid out of the Land Tax or the Consolidated Fund, or out of the improved value of ecclesiastical property. We had had at all times proposals for exemptions—proposals to exempt Dissenters as such, and persons who had conscientious scruples as such, as well as those who gave notice of their desire or intention not to pay the rate. There had also been a suggestion that no compulsory church rate should be applied to any purpose except that of the repair of the fabric, and the question seemed to have been narrowed almost to that. At present somewhere between £50,000 and £60,000 was expended yearly for the repair of the fabrics of our churches—he believed the exact amount was £59,000—and the proportion of that which was raised by church rates was probably between £35,000 and £40,000. He would simply ask, could not the raising of that small sum, which stopped the way, be left to be raised by that voluntary munificence which had never failed when appealed to? There was one consideration which he thought would weigh strongly with hon. Gentlemen opposite, and that was the argument that if they abolished church rates altogether, a very heavy charge would be thrown upon the working clergy in some small parishes in the kingdom. They were by no means an overpaid body, and their expenses had been greatly increased during the last twenty years by the increased price of consumable articles. He wished to state that objection strongly, because it had some weight, and he did not know that anything was lost by stating objections strongly. But there was something to be said on the other side. The heavy charge falling upon the clergy would be only a temporary one, and would apply only to the present holders, and any man who, after the abolition of church rates, should accept a living would be fully aware at the time of the effect of what he did. Again, the hardship would only exist in a very limited number of parishes, the populations of which were very poor, and where there were few or no resident gentry. He believed that if a clergymen lived in the affections of his people, as he ought to do, he would find no difficulty in raising the comparatively small sum necessary for the repair of his church. The Nonconformist body not only defrayed the expenses of their places of worship, but also maintained their ministers. This was even done by the Primitive Methodists, who consisted almost entirely of the poorest classes; and he did not believe that the Church of England would find any difficulty in doing what had been constantly done, for a series of years, by her poorer neighbours. If this Bill passed the second reading Amendments would have to be considered when it came, as he trusted it would do, before Committee. His (Mr. Hardcastle's) position now was different from his position last year. There was a reason last year for delay; now there was every reason to press the matter forward as quickly as possible. He should therefore, if the Bill was read a second time to-day, endeavour that its future stages should not long be delayed. He would strongly urge upon the House to pass—in this which might probably be the last Session of the last middle-class Parliaments—an Act which would do away with great irritation, and he trusted that they would do so by so large a majority as would not only justify, but almost enforce upon those in "another place" the propriety of agreeing to this measure. The hon. Member concluded by moving that the Bill be read a second time.


, in seconding the Motion, said, he did not intend to enter into the great question of church rates, which had been debated over and over again; but he confessed to a great feeling of disappointment at finding that the hon. Member for Stoke-upon-Trent (Mr. Beresford Hope) had upon the paper an Amendment that the Bill should be read a second time that day six months. He had thought that the hon. Gentleman was a party last year to an arrangement which would have superseded the necessity for any further controversy. The Dissenters were desirous that this question should be settled; but, as a mere party man, he himself should be desirous to keep it alive, for it was really a very convenient question, and it was not without a pang that he should part with it. Nevertheless, he felt at the time that he would be quite willing to accept the compromise which he understood to be assented to by the hon. Member for Stoke-upon-Trent last year. It was a question of the clearest justice. The compromise proposed last year by the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Lancashire (Mr. Gladstone) contained three principles—first, the abolition of compulsory church rates; secondly, power given to members of the Church voluntarily to assess themselves, and to collect the rate through the agency of the churchwardens; and thirdly, that Nonconformists and others who objected to church rates, and refused to contribute towards them, should have no share in the administration of the funds thus raised for the support of the fabric or the celebration of Divine worship in the Church. The Dissenters, who at present had a right, being parishioners, to attend the vestry and vote, were quite willing to make that concession and give up that right. They had no moral right to interfere with the affairs of the Church, and it would be an impertinence upon their part if they, after the unconditional abolition of church rates, attempted to do so. So long as other people respected his rights, he wished to respect theirs. He should be glad to hear how the hon. Member for Stoke-upon-Trent could explain what certainly seemed to be an inconsistency in his conduct—namely, how it was that he could no longer support the compromise into which he was willing to enter last Session. He thought that if the hon. Member objected to the Bill brought in by his hon. Friend (Mr. Hardcastle) the least he could do would be to bring in one himself. The Dissenters were at least half the population of the kingdom; they supported with liberality their own system of religious worship, and they did not feel that the Church was justified in calling upon them to contribute towards its support. The general question of church rates, however, had been so often debated that he would not make another observation upon it; but, seeing the Bill of last year, although read a second time, was not carried, end that to that Bill, which was one for the abolition of compulsory church rates, the hon. Member for Stoke-upon-Trent had given his assent as a fair compromise, he hoped that he would not now stand in the way of the settlement of the question proposed by this Bill;—because he assured him that if compulsory church rates should be abolished Dissenters would not interpose any obstacle to the adoption of arrangements between the Church and its supporters which did not compromise the rights of Nonconformists. The hon. Member concluded by seconding the Motion.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Hardcastle.)


acknowledged with gratitude the candour and evident sincerity of the appeal made to him by the hon. Member for Leeds, and his answer to that appeal should be a very simple one. As far as he understood his own position, he stood precisely where he did when he made some remarks last year following the speech of the right hon. Member for South Lancashire on the then second reading of the present measure, and any approval which he gave to that speech he was prepared to give now. The scheme to which he expressed his readiness to assent last year was now embodied in the Bill for the Regulation of Church Rates, brought in by his hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham and himself, and which stood for its second reading that day. He was bound to say that the Bill of his right hon. Friend the Member for South Lancashire, in the formal shape in which it appeared, fell short of what he (Mr. Beresford Hope) had hoped it would have turned out from the speech of its author. Some considerable time elapsed between the delivery of that speech last Session and the introduction of the Bill which was the fruit of it, and in the interim the right hon. Gentleman showed his measure to several Members on that side of the House, including the one now addressing it, who were Churchmen like himself, and they candidly told him where they thought the Bill defective, and indicated the points in which they believed it failed to effect a full and satisfactory settlement of the question. Accordingly, when the measure was introduced last year, those Churchmen in that House who were honestly desirous of a settlement or a compromise which would let off on the easiest terms possible those who had conscientious objections to church rates, and yet preserve church rates, placed their views on the table of the House in the form of a Bill which was brought in by the present Chief Justice of the Court of Common Pleas, and on which his name also appeared. Being still in favour of a compromise, but not satisfied with the right hon. Member for South Lancashire's mode of effecting it, he gave his adhesion to the Bill of Sir William Bovill. The present Bill of the hon. Member for Buckingham proceeded on the same principle as Sir William Bovill's, though it was longer and contained more businesslike details than that rather hastily prepared measure. He trusted that explanation exonerated him from any charge of inconsistency. He had for many years past differed from those of his friends who were in favour of a no-surrender policy on that matter, and had frequently been the subject of severe remark from strong advocates of that view; and however necessary he felt it was to maintain church rates as an existing impost, he thought there was an equal necessity for fairly meeting the views of those who had conscientious scruples against paying them. The Bill brought in by the right hon. Member for South Lancashire last year proposed to sweep away church rates, but went on to leave those persons who liked to meet together and voluntary assess themselves; and for the concession made to the Dissenters the Dissenters were to make the countervailing concession that the money thus raised should be disposed of only by those who paid it. Now, he thanked the hon. Member for Leeds for the candid way in which he had spoken on the latter point; and he trusted that in dealing with that question, whether they were Nonconformists or Churchmen, they would, as religious men and not as partisans, try to find points of agreement rather than of difference between them. But the Bill of the right hon. Member for South Lancashire was seriously defective, because, while it enabled Churchmen to meet together and assess themselves—a provision of which it might be said was only the enabling people to do what they had the full power of doing without Act of Parliament—yet if a man once agreed to pay, and afterwards harked back from it, it contained no provision to compel him to pay that which he promised. Yet the assessment all round would have been based on the supposition that he intended to advance his promised quota, without which the church would either go unrepaired or an additional burden would be thrown on the honest portion of the vestry. That was preposterous, for the payment in that case was not a question of conscience, but one of common honour and honesty. He did not wish to compel a man to pay against his conscientious opinion, but he said that if a man made a bargain he ought to be kept to it. He appealed to hon. Gentlemen opposite whether they did not prejudice the cause of civil and religious liberty if, while attempting to relieve those who conscientiously objected to church rates, they prevented honest Churchmen from having a remedy in their own hands against their dishonest brethren. That was one not to promote religious liberty, but to facilitate fraud. Therefore he could not support a measure which would let off shuffling and dishonest Churchmen. He could not help feeling that proposals like the present for the abolition of church rates pure and simple only drove the amicable settlement of that controversy further off, and tended to discourage those who sincerely desired that it might not be fought out to the bitter end. It should not be forgotten that if there were susceptibility, honour, and conscience among Dissenters, so also these feelings existed among Churchmen; and if the latter saw the abolition of an ancient impost mainly resting on and very convenient to them, though it might be inconvenient to Nonconformists, pertinaciously pressed year after year as a necessity antecedent to a compromise, they would look on those who acted in that manner not so much as well-wishers to Nonconformity as evil-wishers to the Church. Any such feeling would tend to make the amicable adjustment of that question impossible. No doubt, in a town like Leeds, through the zeal of that distinguished man the present Dean of Chichester, and his no less worthy successor, Dr. Atlay, the good work of the Church of England might be sustained without the aid of church rates. But every clergyman was not a Dr. Hook or a Dr. Atlay; and in many less populous parts of the country, where all the wealth, the industry, and the intelligence which existed in places like Leeds were absent, that impost was greatly wanted. It was a remarkable circumstance that, while many advanced politicians were becoming the advocates of compulsory education rate (among whom he might by the way state he did not range himself, in regarding as he did the strength of denominational zeal for religion which made general secular education impossible as one of the safeguards of the land) yet they would not admit the necessity of a compulsory church rate upon Churchmen. He did not profess, as some conceived themselves able to do, to trace back the origin of church rates to Saxon days. It was enough for him that the arrangement had existed for centuries, and was part of the Reformation settlement. As an historical fact, the Church was the tenant in possession, and had been in possession for centuries before Nonconformity even existed. At first Nonconformity was prohibited. In later and wiser days, beginning from the Act of Toleration, its privileges were further and further confirmed till at length it was raised to a position of such perfect equality and consideration on the part of the government and law of this country, and in having risen to so much opulence, that it was hardly an exaggeration to say that Nonconformity had become the second Established Church of England. But that was surely no reason why they ought to abolish church rates as far as they concerned Churchmen. The position of the Church of England might, indeed, be considered unique; for where could they see in any other part of the world the spectacle of an Established Church existing with great privileges and position, and alongside of it perfect civil and religious liberty? Anywhere else the establishment relied on the secular arm, or else there was no establishment at all. But he looked on this anomaly as a distinguishing advantage, although possibly indefensible by the strict rules of political logic. It was, however, a marked peculiarity of British institutions that the people generally gave the preference to practical common sense rather than to rigorous logic. The scheme which he had always upheld would relieve from the payment of church rates those who objected to the tax, but promote its continuance in those cases where no feeling of opposition existed; and in such cases there was no reason why, while it afforded protection to Dissenters, the Church should find itself deprived of the protection of the law for the recovery of the rates from those who had agreed to pay them. A good deal had been said with respect to what had been called the "ticketing" of members of nonconforming denominations. In his opinion, the objection offered on that ground to the adoption of a fair and moderate compromise on the church rate question partook much more of the character of a sneer than of an argument. There was no man in this country who was not ticketed in some way or other—every Member of Parliament, every deputy lieutenant, every graduate, was ticketed; every man who made himself prominent in any church, or Dissenting society thereby ticketed himself. No one could apply for the suffrage, or any other right in this country, without "ticketing" himself in some way or other, and it was time that they should cease to employ such a pitiful epithet for the purpose of serious discussion—until they did so the question would never be rightly settled. Then his hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmund's fell back upon what he must take leave to term the argumentum ad invidiam—why should Churchmen refuse to keep up their churches when the Nonconformists could always do so? But they might just as well say why should one man be richer than another when a man who was poorer could pay his way. As to another argument of his hon. Friend—that the alleged hardship on the clergyman of having to find out of his income money to keep up the church which might now be supplied by the rate was only one upon life-tenants, as the next incumbents would take their livings with their eyes open to the loss—all he had to say was that this was the advocacy of mere and absolute confiscation. The question to which he returned was, what grievance there could be if Nonconformists were not asked to contribute to the rate, in making it compulsory upon those who had agreed to pay it. If there were any grievance to Dissenters in that let them point it out; but he must say he thought that they would have a difficulty in doing so. lf, however, all fair and reasonable terms of compromise were unhappily rejected by the advocates of the unconditional repeal of church rates, the Church would go forth to the conflict, cruelly indeed despoiled, but conscious of her own integrity, conscious that she had done all that Christian charity required her to do for the sake of peace and conciliation, and confident in the strength of her Divine Founder, to fulfil her sacred mission. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving that the Bill be read the second time that day six months.


, in seconding the Amendment, said, he was disposed to view the question more particularly in its connection with the rural districts. There were a large number of poor rural parishes where, for a very long time past, church rates had been collected without any opposition or agitation, and in which it was productive of a great amount of direct and indirect benefit. He would take the case of a village with which he was acquainted as an illustration of what would occur in a vast number of those places if church rates were abolished. In that village there was collected annually, in the shape of church rate, about £50, and out of that sum was defrayed the whole expense of the church services. But there was also an offertory collection made on each Sunday, which realized another sum of about £50, and the whole amount was distributed among the rural poor, among the sick, the aged, young orphans, and other destitute persons. That distribution was effected by means of the parochial clergy. From their personal knowledge of the people those gentlemen were peculiarly well qualified for the performance of such a duty, and the sum was, upon the whole, most judiciously expended; it was a source of great advantage to the poor; it relieved a large amount of misery which the Poor Law did not touch—it softened and alleviated many sorrows and afflictions in life which, perhaps, no other means could reach—and it saved many persons from the necessity of entering the workhouse during periods of temporary distress. But if the church rate in that parish were abruptly and suddenly abolished, it was clear that the first charge on the offertory collection must be the maintenance of the church services. In that case, if, by means of voluntary contributions and increased exertions on the part of the clergyman, the amount of the offertory collection was largely augmented, it was possible that these destitute people might not suffer. But if, as was far more likely, the amount raised at the offertory was not sufficiently increased, it was obvious that the poor would be the first to suffer from the abolition of church rates. It might be said that it was for churchmen to meet the requirements of the case by additional liberality; but he asked those who had experience on these subjects whether it was not a difficult thing to induce the public to add to the amount of their regular and constant contributions. He should further say that he regarded it as one of the misfortunes of the Church of England that its members were not properly educated in the habit of giving. He believed that in that respect the Dissenters were much in advance of Churchmen, and that fact was peculiarly visible in the operations of the members of the two denominations in the colonies. Now, if the voluntary contributions were not largely increased in such parishes as those to which he had referred, the people which would lose most by the abolition of church rates would be the rural poor, and there was no class whose interests they were bound to consider more attentively than those of the rural poor. That class was not represented in that House, and had no political influence; but for that reason he believed its case always received generous consideration from them. Under that Bill the relief of the rural poor would be the second, instead of the first, charge upon the voluntary collection in such villages as that to which he had referred; and he appealed to the House whether the condition of that class was such that any injury, however slight, ought to be inflicted on their interests. If for that reason alone, he must oppose any Bill for the abolition of church rates which would inflict such injury; and therefore he cordially seconded the Amendment of the hon. Member for Stoke-upon-Trent.

Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."—(Mr. Beresford Hope.)


said, that the subject of church rates had been so repeatedly discussed in that House, and the opinion of the House had been so frequently expressed on the principle of their abolition, that it was difficult to find anything new to say on the question; and he should certainly occupy the attention of the House for a very few moments. But before he proceeded any further to deal with the general question, he must make a remark upon the state of the Treasury Bench. That discussion, which was one of great importance, had now been going on for a considerable time in the absence of any single occupant of that Bench, except an hon. and gallant General (General Forester), who held an office in the Royal Household. [At this moment Mr. WALPOLE and Mr. ADDERLEY entered and took their seats.] He was only sorry that the two right hon. Gentlemen who had just entered had not been present to hear the speeches which had already been delivered, and in the course of which some statements were made that might have influenced the decision of the Government. He hoped that this was not one of those subjects on which the House would be left to express an opinion without hearing any opinion from Her Majesty's Government. He should regret to be driven to the conclusion at which he understood the hon. Member for Stoke-upon-Trent (Mr. Beresford Hope), who had moved the Amendment, had arrived—namely, that they were now in a less favourable position than at the close of last Session in regard to the satisfactory settlement of this question. Towards the close of last Session he thought a general hope was entertained that an arrangement might be come to which would be acceptable to all parties concerned. The Bill of his right hon. Friend the Member for South Lancashire was not now before the House; but it was read the second time before the close of last Session, and there was a very general expression of opinion that it contained the germ at least of a settlement which might remove that subject from the field of repeated annual discussion. They had not therefore before them the Bill to which the hon. Member for Stoke addressed a considerable part of his speech; but if he correctly understood the speech of the hon. Member for Leeds (Mr. Baines), his hon. Friend was now prepared, although seconding the Motion for the second reading of the present Bill, to agree to the proposal made last year, which would, in fact, have abolished compulsory church rates, subject to certain provisions for preventing persons who had not paid those rates from taking part in the administration of the funds raised by that impost. The principle of that Bill was one to which he cordially assented; although he thought the details of the Bill, if it were again presented to the House, would require some modification. He was prepared to admit, with the hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. Gorst), that it might be inexpedient and harsh in many instances to abolish a rate levied with the general assent of the inhabitants of a parish, and applied to the useful purposes which had been mentioned, and he regretted that the present Bill was not limited to the abolition of a compulsory rate. Notice, however, had been given of Amendments in that sense, and the provisions which might be necessary to give effect to the views of the hon. Gentleman in that respect might very well be discussed in Committee. He should cordially support the second reading of the Bill, reserving to himself the right to vote for any Amendment afterwards which might be proposed with the object of bringing about a compromise which might make the measure more generally acceptable. The hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. Gorst), he might add, had expressed his regret that members of the Church of England were not so well educated as Dissenters in the principle of voluntary contributions; but surely, if that opinion were correct, it furnished an argument in favour of the second reading of the Bill, inasmuch as the inference was that the abolition of compulsory rates would supply that defect, and, by stimulating voluntary exertions, recommend itself to the hon. Gentleman's approval.


said, he should not enter at length into the history of the question, or the arguments as applicable to the continuance of church rates, but rather confine himself to the actual condition in which the question now stood. He thought they had much to congratulate themselves on the tone with which the question of church rates was now dealt with in that House. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Leeds (Mr. Baines) had expressed his readiness to meet the susceptibility, if such it could be said to be, of certain Churchmen with regard to certain concessions which were discussed last year. The friends of the Church had prepared a Bill which they thought would meet the case in the best manner; but the House was asked to anticipate it by affirming the principle of this Bill. He was not then going to assume that his hon. Friends were right; but he had a right to ask that the House might be allowed to consider their propositions before the House was called upon to take a decided step in a contrary direction by the second reading of this Bill, which was in favour of the absolute and unconditional abolition of church rates. If they affirmed the principle of this Bill, it would appear as if they were acting somewhat inconsistently to immediately afterwards consider the provisions of a Bill of an entirely different character. The present state of the law, he might add, already established a sort of compromise, which it might or might not be desirable for the Legislature to put on a clearer and better footing; but it was no answer to anticipate a legal arrangement of this compromise by the direct affirmation that they would first put an end to the whole thing, and then afterwards be willing to listen to a compromise. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Bury (Mr. Hardcastle) declined to postpone, under the circumstances, the consideration of the Bill for a month, but he had elected to take issue upon whether the rate should or should not be absolutely abolished; and therefore he(Sir William Heathcote) should vote for the Amendment.


said, that if this rate could be divested of its national and religious importance, he, as a tenant farmer, should say that it was more of a landlord's than a tenant's question. The tenants took their land subject to the payment of church rates, and although they were glad to get rid of rates and taxes whenever they could, they had no right to shirk this responsibility which they had engaged to pay. He had purchased land subject to the payment of church rates, and he did not think that he was justified in getting rid of that burden unless some substitute was provided. As an independent Member, he heartily wished to see this question settled; and he submitted to the House whether it would not be possible to read a second time the three Bills that had been introduced with reference to church rates, and then refer them to a Select Committee, by which means they might arrive at some legitimate and equitable compromise.


said, that the national and religious importance of the question no doubt greatly added to their embarrassment in dealing with it; and another great difficulty was that a number of persons would be sorry to see it settled because it would be so much loss to them of political capital. As a member of the Church of England, he could not assent to the total and unconditional abolition of church rates. He could not disguise from himself the fact—and in expressing it he knew he was treading on very tender round, and was pulling a hornets' nest about his ears—that the declamations of the Free Church party had imported a great difficulty into the settlement of this question. Churches must be repaired, and were it not for church rates the churches in London would collapse. He thought also that the question of pew-rents, introduced by the Free Church party, had greatly embarrassed the subject. He admitted that the direct payment to the church for seats ought to be coupled with the strongest conditions as to the number and character of free sittings to be reserved, so as to avoid invidious distinctions. It was possible to prescribe the conditions on which the public should subscribe their money. What he most feared for was the actual repairs of the church. The voluntary principle was more or less a sensational one, and the clergymen found it was more easy to rebuild or restore a church than it was to get persons to contribute a small annual sum for its repair, because there was nothing picturesque about the ordinary repairs of a church. He thought that under proper regulations the payment of pew-rents, or an assessment for that purpose, with the preference of occupation in the church, would in a measure meet the difficulty. He was ready to come to some reasonable settlement of the question, but he could not agree to the entire and total abolition of the rate.


asked why—as the hon. Member for East Norfolk had said the maintenance of the Church was a charge upon lend—the landlords did not take the burden of repairing the church on themselves, and let their lands free of church rates? That would satisfactorily settle the question. He had been unable to find that any real or practical grievance would arise from the abolition of the rate. The late Mr. Divett, the Member for Exeter, brought in a Bill thirty-three years ago for the abolition of church rate, and ever since that time there had been a constant agitation against it, and every new church that was built produced fresh opposition to the rate. It was remarkable that during all that time there was not an instance where a church had fallen into decay and had not been repaired. Where churches had been rebuilt or restored by voluntary contributions it had been done in a more elegant and elaborate manner than was the case previously, and the churches generally were in good repair. It was useless to say that the Church would suffer from the abolition of the rate. The landlords should voluntarily pay the rate, and let their lands accordingly. It was a libel on the members of the Church to say that nothing but a compulsory rate would compel them to keep the fabric in repair Dissenters ought not to be called on to pay the rate, and the Bill of the right hon. Member for South Lancashire was as unsatisfactory as other Bills for settling the question had been. The hundreds of thousands subscribed by Churchmen for the rebuilding and restoration of churches in the last thirty years showed that there was no difficulty in the way of their maintenance. He hoped the House would do an act of justice to those who were not Churchmen by passing the second reading of the Bill.


said, that allusion had been made in the earlier part of the discussion by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Morpeth (Sir George Grey) to the absence from the House on the present occasion of all Members of the Government. None were more averse to the total and immediate abolition of church rates than Her Majesty's Government; but it might happen that on Wednesday afternoons the Government had to attend important duties in "another place." The late Government were invariably absent from the House on Wednesdays during part of the day; and if a Cabinet Council were held at two or three o'clock, before Ministers could arrive in the House, the important part of a debate had generally arrived. They had therefore thought it better to hold the Cabinet early, and to come to the House immediately afterwards. He felt a difficulty in discussing this Bill. He could quite understand that, on the question of the total and immediate abolition of church rates, the House should come to a distinct and positive issue; and if that were the only legitimate issue, the Government had a decided objection to a total and immediate abolition. But the mixing up of questions of compromise with that of total abolition confused the subject. If the hon. Member for Bury (Mr. Hardcastle) did not press the second reading of his Bill, this and the other Bills might be referred to a Select Committee, and a settlement thus be attempted; but after a vote in favour of total abolition, it would be absurd to consider the question of compromise. He could not understand how the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Morpeth could year after year give his countenance to a mode of proceeding which rendered compromise impossible, and which tended more to confuse and obstruct time settlement of the question than almost any other he could conceive. An hon. Member (Mr. Remington Mills) had said that for thirty-four years the question of the abolition of church rates had been agitated more or less in the country and debated in the House of Commons. There had certainly been no abolition of church rates during that period; and he denied that in that interval the feeling in the country had gained ground in favour of abolition. Every year Returns were published of the parishes in which church rates were levied; and year after year it appeared that church rates were levied and collected in an increasing number of parishes, and the sum total raised by the rates was on the increase. What, then, was the meaning of the statement that church rates were becoming more and more unpopular? He maintained that there was less and less difficulty experienced in the collection of church rates; and that year after year they became a more valuable and more reliable source of Church revenue. District churches had been referred to. Years ago district churches might have felt church rates to be a grievance; but since the Duke of Marlborough's Act and the decisions upon it, in a course of years that difficulty had vanished. When a compromise was talked of, it should be remembered that a compromise was like a quarrel—it required two parties to it. Now, on that (the Ministerial) side of the House Bills and Resolutions had been introduced with a view of settling the question on an equitable basis; but these proposals had been invariably resisted by hon. Gentlemen opposite representing what he might call the Dissenting interest. If the hon. Member for Bury (Mr. Hardcastle), as the accredited organ of that interest, retreated from his position, and the Dissenters would consent to some compromise, then there might be some hope for the various proposals under the consideration of the House. But the hon. Member (Mr. Remington Mills) had told the House that the measure of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Lancashire last year, rejected as it was with singular unanimity by Churchmen, was regarded with no favour at all by the Dissenters, The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Morpeth admitted that that measure of last year would require great alteration. [Sir GEORGE GREY: Modification.] At all events, he (Lord John Manners) objected to the Government being called upon to express an opinion upon a question which put all compromise out of court altogether. So long as this Bill for the total and immediate abolition of church rates remained in the way, the Government had but one course to pursue, and that was to vote for the rejection of a measure from the principle of which they heartily and entirely dissented.


supported the Bill, because he, as a Churchman, thought there was sufficient energy among the members of the Church to keep up its fabric without the aid of church rates. Church rates in large towns might be said to have vanished; only in the small parishes were they retained; and he believed that in the smaller parishes where church rates had been abolished the churches were not out of repair, and that a large amount of voluntary contribution was obtained for their maintenance. He could not admit the statement that Churchmen were not so well educated in the voluntary principle as Dissenters; for a very large amount of money had been subscribed by Churchmen for the erection of new churches, and he believed that a fund for their repair was also provided by voluntary contributions. Only recently the Bishop of Manchester, in laying the foundation-stone of a new church in Lancashire, referred to the work which had been effected by voluntary contributions, stating that in the course of the nineteen years of his episcopal ministration he had consecrated 100 churches, and that probably he would be called on in the present year to consecrate seventeen more. The whole of these churches had been, he believed, provided for by voluntary contributions, and more than £1,000,000 had been raised for the purpose. He had therefore confidence in the earnestness and zeal of Churchmen, who, he was sure, would support their parish church, though the compulsory power of raising a rate were abolished.


said, he was prepared to disclaim and condemn any legislation on this subject which was at variance with the principles of civil and religious liberty. What was the position of the church rate case? The country was now divided into two portions, in this way:—There was the minority of parishes, with a majority of population, collected in the great seats of commerce and industry, and containing a great many Dissenters from the Church, which had negatived the principle of church rates; and there was the majority of parishes with a minority of population, who exercised their privilege of rating for church rates. The principle of rating was an old constitutional principle in this country, and the levying a rate was the act of the majority, in which the minority were bound to acquiesce. He looked on rating as a great evidence of civilization, as a principle by which society raised itself out of the anarchy of savage life, and put upon every man a burden according to his power. Why, the principle of rating had been carried so far that there was actually a library rate, to defray the cost of books for the use of the working classes. It was the majority which ruled the minority with regard to the library rate, and why should that principle be tabooed when applied to church rates? The voluntary principle had been extolled as all-sufficient. But in what cases had it been successful. People were willing to make great sacrifices for the building of churches, because they had a great sympathy with the object, and felt that the successful erection of the structure would be identified with their own efforts. They saw the results. But they would not be so ready to make yearly payments for a purpose which produced no immediately visible results, and excited no especial interest or sympathy on their part. It would be absurd to propose to provide for the Consolidated Fund of the country on the voluntary principle; but if that was absurd he should like to be told where it was that the absurdity stopped in respect of raising funds by voluntary means. The hon. Proposer of the present Bill had said that he brought forward the measure with the view of allaying irritation. Whose irritation did the hon. Member allude to? Was it the irritation of the 8,500 parishes which paid church rates, or of the 1,500 parishes which were emancipated from the payment of the rate? This was a question in respect to which he thought that those who were interested might be left to act for themselves. As had been truly said by the hon. Member for East Norfolk (Mr. Read), this was really a question of burden on property, and the occupier, when he had to pay church rates, paid proportionally less rent than another occupier, who paid no church rates. Property had always borne the burden of church rates, and the question was whether the mode of disposing the burden should be interfered with. He contended that it should not be interfered with. Where a majority in a parish decided against a rate no rate was levied; but where a majority were in favour of a rate as the most equitable and convenient mode of raising the necessary funds from those only who were willing to contribute, was it an unfair or unreasonable request that their right to tax themselves should not be interfered with? The Bill which his hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-upon-Trent (Mr. Beresford Hope) and himself had laid on the table—a Bill which, while it respected the rights and liberty of Englishmen, effected the object of the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds—the abolition of the compulsory payment of church rates. The measure of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Lancashire was for the abolition of what he called compulsory church rates. Now, as all church rates, leviable under the law, were compulsory, that measure necessarily implied the abolition of all church rates entirely; whereas the hon. Member for Stoke-upon-Trent and himself intended by their Bill to retain the power of rating for those who were willing to pay church rates, but provided in the simplest way a power of exemption for those who were disinclined to pay them. He should like to ask what it was precisely that was wanted by those who opposed the present mode of levying church rates. Was it simply that they wanted to give relief from a compulsory payment of church rates, or did those who supported the Motion of the hon. Member for Bury (Mr. Hardcastle) do so for the further reason that they desired to strike a blow at the connection between Church and State? Was it their desire to remove the Church from the status she had occupied from time immemorial. If the Bill for the abolition of church rates were carried, a very severe blow would be struck, so far as it went, at the principle of Church and State. The hon. Member for Leeds (Mr. Baines) had spoken of the large proportion of the inhabitants of England and Wales who were Dissenters; but any assertion that the Dissenters formed a majority of the population was in entire defiance of all statistics. He was aware that there was a volume called a "Religious Census," which might seem to lend some countenance to this opinion; but its allegations were unauthorized and unofficial, and its statistics were utterly worthless. He had some years since moved for a Copy of the Instructions under the authority of which the so-called "Religious Census of 1851" was compiled, and after waiting some time he was informed by the then Secretary for the Home Department (Sir George Lewis) that no Return of such instructions could be made, for that no such instructions were ever given. On the other hand, there were Returns in existence connected with marriages, burials and workhouses, and there was a religious census of both the army and the navy; and if such documents were taken as authority, a very different conclusion would be deduced from that of the hon. Member for Leeds, and the Church would be seen to have a considerable preponderance of the population. He (Mr. Hubbard) believed that the Churchmen in England and Wales numbered between 75 and 80 per cent of the population. But this was not a question of the proportion of Churchmen and Dissenters; it was a question of simple liberty for those who wished to carry on the system of church rates in their own interest, without affecting those who differed from them, and they claimed that as one of the inherent rights of Englishmen. The noble Lord who spoke on behalf of the Government (Lord John Manners) gave the House to understand that while, on the one hand, Her Majesty's Government were prepared to resist the total and unconditional repeal of church rates, they were willing to consider the measure proposed by the hon. Member for Stoke-upon-Trent (Mr. Beresford Hope) and himself, with a view of coming to a compromise. Thus the House had an advantage which they had never possessed before, for a Government had never said before that they would look at a measure proposed for the adjustment of this question with a favourable eye. This discussion did not merely involve the maintenance of the principle of self-government by the majority, which had always been respected by that House; but it involved the maintenance of the Church of England as a national Church, without the infliction of any oppression upon those who differed from her. He trusted the House would not let this opportunity of settling the question escape, but would pass over the proposition now before them with the view of coining to the consideration of a measure dictated by the most honest desire of meeting every reasonable scruple of those not connected with the Church of England. He should, therefore, offer his opposition to the Motion of the hon. Gentleman.


said, he did not agree with the hon. Member for Bury (Mr. Hardcastle) that the present time offered a peculiar opportunity for settling this question, and thought that this was a question on which, of all others, they should have waited for that increased constituency which was impending over them. If there was any institution more than another which must throw itself on the support of the whole people it was the National Church. Unless the Church of England could regain some of the ground she had lost during the last 100 or 200 years she could not lay claim, with any justice, to the position of the dominant ecclesiastical establishment. The House was placed in a position of embarrassment by the way in which the question had come before them. There was the principle put forward by the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate) that the majority should have the right to tax the minority in these matters; but the principle that the majority had a right to bind the minority, though applicable to cases whole the majority and minority assembled for a common purpose, did not apply to such a matter as that under the consideration of the House; and, as the State had recognised the full right of any one to dissent, he maintained that if there were only one Dissenter in a parish, that Dissenter had an absolute right to be exempted from contribution to a Church to which he did not belong. Then there was the principle embodied in the Bill of the hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Hubbard), which asserted the right of the Church of England to tax its own members. He (Mr. Neate) should be prepared to assent to the second reading of that Bill, because beyond that there was no step till total abolition was reached. He would ask the Government why they had not come forward with a proposition for the settlement of the measure?


said, that he had never denied that the present system of church rates had great defects; but he denied that those defects were of such a nature as to render indispensable the abolition of church rates. The great defect was that the fund raised by church rates was employed for two purposes—one being the maintenance of the fabric of the Church, and the other the maintenance of the ceremonial of the Church; and the Dissenters felt it a grievance to be compelled to pay for the maintenance of a worship in which they did not share. He believed, however, that the Dissenters would willingly pay for the maintenance of the ancient fabrics of the Church, for which they manifested an interest, and had in some instances contributed largely; but it could not be expected they would contribute with any degree of willingness to the maintenance of a worship of which they did not approve. The present system, by which the rates were levied on the occupier, instead of the owner of the property, was another matter which required correction. He thought the grievance upon the Dissenter and the Roman Catholic might be very much removed if the rate, instead of being levied on the occupier, were placed to the charge of the owner of property. He did not think it would be prudent to accept any Bill which did not contain some clause, distinguishing between the maintenance of the fabric of the Church and the maintenance of the ceremonial, and he did not see any such clause in the different Bills presented to the House. To the Bill of the hon. Member for Bury he should certainly give his unqualified opposition; and he trusted that before the end of this Session some measure which would satisfy the fair and equitable claims of the Church and of Dissenters would be presented to the House.


said, that hon. Members should make up their minds whether they would maintain the church by a compulsory rate or on the voluntary principle; any attempt at a compromise between the two principles must necessarily and inevitably fail. It was difficult to understand how the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Lancashire last year could be called a compromise. It was as much a measure of abolition as the present Bill—the only conceivable reason for calling it a compromise seemed to be that it contained many elaborate provisions to the effect that people might pay a subscription to the Church if they liked. The Bill of the hon. Members for Stoke and Buckingham did not propose abolition, but only the exemption of such persons as chose to give notice of their desire to be exempted from the payment of church rates on the 1st day of January in each year. Whatever compromise of that kind might be carried would never work for the benefit of the Church. No reason need be assigned by the parties claiming exemption; and Churchmen as well as Dissenters would give notice of objection. In what position would the Church then stand? It now rested on the intelligible ground that it was the Established Church—the law recognised only one church, and imposed on all owners and occupiers a rate in proportion to their holdings. This was a position of great advantage; but this Bill once passed, that position would be entirely altered. The Church would be standing not on an ancient law imposing a rate on all owners and occupiers for the support of the establishment, in which position it is in antagonism only with Dissenters, but its attitude hereafter would be that of opposition, not only as against Dissenters, but as against Churchmen also, by giving them the means and opportunity of claiming exemption from the payment of rates for its support. How would they be able to maintain a compulsory rate in such circumstances? What was intended to break the fall of the Church from a compulsory to a voluntary system would then turn out to be the most disastrous sort of compromise, at once yielding to its foes and alienating many of its friends. Such a compromise would be far worse than simple abolition by the Bill of the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds. In parishes where church rates had already been abolished enthusiasm for the Church had revived—church extension had made great progress; many beautiful specimens of church architecture had been built, and there was no difficulty in maintaining them in a most excellent condition. In many of the country parishes where the rate has been continuously imposed, on the other hand, the fabrics were not generally maintained in a very creditable manner. The reason was that two or three farmers set the rate, and having to pay the greater part of it, they set it as low as possible. His belief was that if the Church would have the courage to throw itself on the enthusiastic sympathy of its friends, there would be found a plethora of wealth for maintaining and extending the Church system throughout the country. The existing law was such that its effect was to stop the liberality of Churchmen. For his own part he should prefer, what he had always advocated, a real compromise of this nature—that the maintenance of the fabric should be separated from the expenses of worship, and that the public national buildings should be supported by a rate, and the expenses of worship be defrayed by the worshippers. But he feared such a proposition was now too late.


said, he was prepared to relieve all who objected to the payment of church rates, not by their absolute abolition, but by abolishing the compulsory payment of them. He did not recommend that proposal to the house without having had some experience of its successful results. In a parish with which he was connected about fifteen years ago, there were incessant disputes yearly on the question of church rates—quarrels between neighbours and friends, between Dissenters and Churchmen. There was no peace in the parish. The incumbent, a very sensible man, was determined to put an end to that state of things. He said there should be no more compulsion, while every year there should be a rate, and it should be collected only from Churchmen who were willing to pay, leaving others alone. What was the result? Since 1855, there had been, without objection or opposition, a rate levied of from £200 to £350 a year, to which great numbers of Dissenters contributed. That parish, too, paid higher rates than any other in the diocese; the churches were kept in admirable repair, and the clergy were on the best terms with their congregation, and with the Dissenters in the parish.


was understood to say that he was prepared to abolish the compulsory charge upon persons, but not to exempt property from the liability which had been so long placed upon it. He could not, however, go beyond this, for he could not consent to put the charge, which was really now upon the land, into the pockets of the landlords; and he felt that to abolish it altogether would be inconsistent with the maintenance of the parochial system.


said, that instead of the Bill being a Bill for the abolition of compulsory church rates, it was rather a Bill for taking away from parishioners the power which they now possessed of taxing themselves for the maintenance of their parish church. The Bill in this sense interfered with self-government and with the principle that the majority should determine whether there should or should not be a church rate; in fact, it would impose upon the majority the will of the minority. It seemed to him that the provisions introduced into the Bill of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckingham (Mr. Hubbard) took away all ground of objection on the part of Dissenters; and he apprehended that upon no principle of civil or religious liberty could any one religious body claim to interfere in the government of another religious body. The mode which the Church of England had for centuries adopted of raising funds was church rates; and unless there was some injury shown to Dissenters, he ventured to claim for the Church her own mode of raising funds. He should wish to ask the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Hardcastle) in the event of church rates being repealed, what substitute would be proposed for them? The only other modes of raising money for the repair of the fabrics were pew-rents and the offertory collections. The objections against pew-rents, however, were much stronger than those against church rates. The average annual charge in the shape of pew-rents, whether in church or chapel, was about 10s. for each sitting; and if payment were made general it would exclude all the poor parishioners, or they would be put in some out of the way place where they could neither see nor hear. Pew-rents could be collected by process of law—an operation which would be extremely objectionable. At present the fabrics were the property of the whole of the parishioners, and they being the owners had the power and the duty of keeping them in repair. What would the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Hardcastle) do with the ownership of these churches? Was he prepared to confiscate them, or hand them over in perpetuity to that section of the parishioners which was attached to the Church of England? Or, on the other hand, did he expect Churchmen to be at the expense of repairing the common property of the parish? His hon. Friend appeared hardly to have considered on what footing he would leave the ownership of parish churches if church rates were violently and unconditionally abolished. Much of the animosity between Churchmen and Dissenters had died away. There was a disposition on both sides to settle this question. Mr. Morley, who he regretted had no longer a seat in that House, had delivered a speech on this subject which found favour on both sides of the House. For himself he must say they could hardly settle the question, except on the principle embodied in the Bill of the hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Hubbard). In his opinion the persons who were to be exempted from church rates by that Bill were not sufficiently defined; but that defect could easily be remedied. He ventured to claim for the Church her old mode of Church government and of raising fund; and he thought that if this principle were admitted, it would give to Churchmen and to Dissenters free scope to carry out their own views, and promote common Christianity in the modes they each considered best.


said, he did not wish to detain the House by going into the arguments which had been used on either side: he rose simply to make an appeal to the Government whether they would not be induced to support the second reading of this Bill. He thought that the Liberal party, and especially the Liberal Church party, had every reason to be satisfied with the progress of this question and of this debate. A very different tone had been taken to-day from that which had characterized church rate debates on previous occasions. If this was at all owing to the fact that hon. Members who used to sit on that side of the House had gone over to the other, he thought that those on his own side had every reason to congratulate themselves on the change. This was the first occasion on which they had any declaration on any question connected with the Church from the Government. He had watched them with great interest in their addresses to their constituents on their election, but hitherto they had been silent on the subject. That day, however, the noble Lord the First Commissioner of Works (Lord John Manners) had addressed them as the organ of the Government on the question of church rates; and, on the whole, they had reason to be satisfied with his statement; because, although he said he should vote against the second reading of this he spoke of what he called a compromise in the most promising terms. For years and years, he said, they had been expressing a wish that there should be a compromise; and what was the compromise of the noble Lord? Exemption of Dissenters from paying this charge. Well, he trusted that was the view not only of the noble Lord, but of the whole of his Colleagues, including the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House of Commons. A few years ago that certainly was not time view of the right hon. Gentleman. He pronounced himself very clearly and distinctly on this subject. He said this—"some of our friends would go further—they would exempt the Dissenters from the charge; that is not compromise, it is surrender." He said further—"What the Dissenter would is, in fact, an oligarchical privilege." Was the right hon. Gentleman prepared now to yield that point—that which the right hon. Gentleman had formerly called a surrender? If the Government were prepared to sanction the compromise that Dissenters should not be obliged to pay the rate, they would have taken a great step in advance and proved that it was not only on the question of Reform that they had very considerable elasticity of convictions. He thought the Government might very well vote for the second reading of the Bill, and adopt the compromise contained in the clauses of which notice had been given by the hon. Member for Hastings (Mr. Waldegrave-Leslie). He trusted to see a compromise satisfactory to the majority of the House, and he hoped the Government would in this question repeat the example of the noble Lord the Secretary for Ireland, who a few Wednesdays ago, on the second reaching of a Bill also involving the principle of religious toleration, first declared that he could not support it unless certain alterations were agreed to, but though these alterations were refused, voted for the second reading nevertheless.


The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Goschen) having appealed to Her Majesty's Government as to whether they are prepared to support such a compromise as that suggested by my noble Friend the First Commissioner of Works—namely, to exempt Dissenters from the payment of church rates—the best answer I can give to the right hon. Gentleman is one which will not be simply confined to words. Eight years ago, when the Government of Lord Derby was in power, and when my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer was, as he is now, Leader of the House, he proposed a measure in which that identical compromise, as it is called, was included; and that measure was not rejected by those hon. Members who sat on the Ministerial side of the House, but by the combined movement of those who sat on the opposite side. In reference to this question, I have only to say that Her Majesty's Government are perfectly prepared to abide by that compromise, as it is called, by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, which they themselves proposed when they were last in office. But more than that—I think that the proposition of the hon. Member for Stoke, and of the hon. Member for Buckingham, do furnish us with the means of arriving at a very effectual compromise on this question, which the House will do well to examine. But when we are asked now, as we were asked last year, to consider not any such compromise as that, but to consider whether a rate which has existed for many centuries should not be absolutely and totally abolished without any compromise whatever—then, I say, it is utterly impossible that Her Majesty's Ministers, or those who concur with them, can assent to any such proposition. When the Bill, which was nearly identical with the present one, was introduced last year by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Lancashire, then the Leader of the House, in the course of the discussion upon the second reading he gave an intimation to the House—which intimation was subsequently followed up by a distinct and specific proposition—that if the compulsory abolition of church rates were not insisted upon, he would introduce a measure which would enable those who now desired to contribute to the maintenance of the fabric of the Church to obtain their object. I said then what I say now—I think that such a mode of dealing with the question would hardly give satisfaction. If a compromise of any kind be intended I think it ought to be by a distinct provision inserted in the Bill to be submitted to our consideration; because if we once assent to the second reading of a Bill without such compromise being included in its provisions, we shall be precluded afterwards in fair argument from objecting to the abolition of church rates absolutely, and it would be a more chance, after absolute abolition, whether any substitute that would be considered satisfactory will be afterwards proposed. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Morpeth (Sir George Grey) at the beginning of this debate took very nearly the same view on this question as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Lancashire, only with this difference—the right hon. Baronet thought that certain modifications might be made in the proposition of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Lancashire last year, and, as I understood, he seemed to think that some such machinery as that proposed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Lancashire might be introduced into the present Bill. Now my answer to the suggestion of the right hon. Baronet is this—that it would be useless going into Committee upon this Bill, with that view, inasmuch as the introduction of such machinery into it would make it an entirely new Bill, and would not be an amendment in it. Let there be no mistake about the matter. What we think is this. Here is an old customary rate which has existed for centuries, and which has enabled parishes by self-governing action to contribute towards the repairs of the fabric of the National Church. About 5 per cent of the parishes have exempted themselves by reason of the votes of the majority of their populations from the obligation of contributing to the church rates, leaving 95 per cent of them perfectly willing to contribute to the payment of those rates required for such purposes. On what grounds then—for what reason I ask—are you to do away with that which is found to be the available practical machinery of this country for preserving the fabric of our churches, when it is evident that 95 per cent of the parishes do not object to it? There may be a few parishes, or a few individuals in a parish, who have not exempted themselves from the payment of those rates, but who wish to be exempted because they do not belong to the Church. Now, if any persons really desire to be exempted, Her Majesty's Ministers will agree to any proposition to effect that object; but they cannot consent to do away with that old and legitimate charge upon property in the hands of those belonging to the Church merely because a sentimental feeling as to this payment being a grievance exists in the minds of Dissenters. For these reasons we cannot agree to the absolute abolition of church rates. We are, however, prepared to consider any measure having for its principle the throwing the burden upon the landlords instead of the occupier, or of honestly relieving persons from the obligation of contributing to the support of the fabric of a church to which they do not belong. There is not any reason, we think, why a fund established for the maintenance of the Church should be abruptly destroyed. For these reasons I certainly cannot assent to the second reading.


Sir, I wish in a brief compass to offer a few observations upon the speech of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, and then to state the course which I intend to pursue in respect to the present question. The right hon. Gentleman says that church rates ought to be considered a charge upon property and not a tax upon the person who is called upon to pay them; and yet he is willing to exempt the Dissenters from the payment of them. But does not the right hon. Gentleman see that what is really involved in the whole question is this—whether church rates are really a charge upon property? The moment you consent to exempt the Dissenter from a charge inherited with his property that moment it becomes useless to assert that church rates are a charge upon property. The right hon. Gentleman says he objects to go into Committee upon this Bill because it is an inconvenient and objectionable practice to go into Committee, not for the purpose of amending a Bill in the ordinary sense of the word, but in order to make it a new Bill. Well, I confess I very much agree with him in that view. But still there are two points to be considered. The one is the point of form, the other the point of substance. As regards the point of form there is no question; because from the simplicity of the structure of the Bill it is perfectly consistent with its principles to engraft upon it provisions to maintain the present parochial machinery without establishing the compulsory powers. In regard to the point of substance, the question is one of words, because it is this—whether the substance of the Bill does not really reside in its destroying the power of compulsory taxation. And if it resides in that effect of it, then I say it is an alteration in the Bill in respect to substance to introduce provisions into it recognising the voluntary principle. As regards myself, I will only say what my object was in the Bill of last year, and what I felt to be the duty it imposed upon me. I do not think I should have been justified in pressing upon the House a compromise, however well intended, after the House had signified its disinclination to entertain it. Last year I confess I was disappointed in the course taken not only by some Members of the Government, but by several hon. Gentlemen of weight in the House on account of their personal qualities and experience, as well as of their knowledge of this subject. Those hon. Gentlemen not only opposed the Bill which I introduced, but on several occasions they declared the measure to be worse than a Bill for the total abolition of church rates. Although that was the case, yet, on the other hand, my Bill received a considerable support from hon. Gentlemen opposite. It is true we had not the advantage of ascertaining the extent of their support in a division, because no division took place on the second reading; but certainly the circumstances attending the passing of the Bill through a second reading without a division, and the assurances of support which I received, were such as to induce me to refrain from pertinaciously pressing such a compromise upon the House as I should have felt it my duty to do if the facts were otherwise than such as I have described. I have not thought it necessary to introduce the Bill a second time to the House for this reason—that my hon. Friend the Member for Hastings (Mr. Waldegrave-Leslie) had placed certain Clauses on the paper which, if agreed to, will substantially effect the object which I have in view. I confess I think it desirable to support these clauses in Committee and I hope that the House will fairly consider them. The point, then, remaining in doubt between the proposition of the hon. Member for Buckingham and the clauses given notice of by my hon. Friend is, whether the compulsory power of enforcing church rates shall be retained not for the purpose of putting it in action against the unwilling parties, but against those who are willing to pay. Now, the whole head and from of our proposition is this—that besides giving up the compulsory power against those who are not willing to contribute to the fund for the maintenance of the fabric of the Church, it is also proposed to give up the compulsory power as against those who are willing to pay the church rates. That, I think, is a question deserving of consideration in Committee; and inasmuch as no disinclination has been expressed by the promoters or supporters of the present Bill to afford a fair opportunity of discussing the question in Committee, I shall certainly have no hesitation in giving my vote for the second reading.

Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."

The House divided:—Ayes 263; Noes 187: Majority 76.

Main Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read a second time, and committed for To-morrow.

Acland, T. D. Buxton, C.
Adair, H. E. Buxton, Sir T. F.
Adam, W. P. Calcraft, J. H. M.
Agar-Ellis, hn. L. G. F. Candlish J.
Agnew, Sir A. Cardwell, rt. hon. E.
Amberley, Viscount Carington, hon. C. R.
Anstruther, Sir R. Carnegie, hon. C.
Antrobus, E. Cave, T.
Ayrton, A. S. Cavendish, Lord F. C.
Aytoun, R. S. Cavendish, Lord G.
Barclay, A. C. Chambers, T.
Barnes, T. Cheetham, J.
Barron, Sir H. W. Childers, H. C. E.
Barry, C. R. Cholmeley, Sir M. J.
Bass, A. Clay, J.
Bass, M. T. Clement, W. J.
Baxter, W. E. Clinton, Lord E. P.
Bazley, T. Clive, G.
Beaumont, H. F. Cogan, rt. hn. W. H. F.
Beaumont, W. B. Colebrooke, Sir T. E.
Berkeley, hon. H. F. Collier, Sir R. P.
Biddulph, Col. R. M. Colvile, C. R.
Biddulph, M. Cowen, J.
Blake, J. A. Cowper, hon. H. F.
Blennerhasset, Sir R. Cowper, rt. hon. W. F.
Brand, hon. H. Craufurd, E. H. J.
Bright, Sir C. T. Crawford, R. W.
Bright, J. Cremorne, Lord
Briscoe, J. I. Crossley, Sir F.
Bruce, Lord C. Davey, R.
Bruce, rt. hon. H. A. Davie, Sir H. R. F.
Bryan, G. L. De La Poer, E.
Buller, Sir A. W. Dent, J. D.
Butler, C. S. Dering, Sir E. C.
Dilke, Sir W. King, hon. P. J. L.
Dillwyn, L. L. Kinglake, A. W.
Dodson, J. G. Kingscote, Colonel
Doulton, F. Knatchbull-Hugessen, E
Duff, R. W. Lacon, Sir E.
Dundas, F. Lamont, J.
Dundas, rt. hon. Sir D. Lawrence, W.
Dunlop. A. C. S. M. Lawson, rt. hon. J. A.
Edwards, C. Layard, A. H.
Eliot, Lord Leatham, W. H.
Ellice, E. Leeman, G.
Enfield, Viscount Lefevre, G. J. S.
Erskine, Vice-Ad. J. E. Lewis, H.
Evans, T. W. Lowe, rt. hon. R.
Ewart, W. Lusk, A.
Ewing, H. E. Crum- Mackie, J.
Eykyn, R. Mackinnon, Capt. L. B.
Fawcett, H. Mackinnon, W. A.
Fildes, J. M'Lagan, P.
Finlay, A. S. M'Laren, D.
FitzGerald, Lord O. A. Marjoribanks, D. C.
Foley, H. W. Marsh, M. H.
Foljambe, F. J. S. Martin, C. W.
Fordyce, W. D. Martin, P. W.
Forster, C. Matheson, A.
Forster, W. E. Merry, J.
Fortescue, rt. hon. C.S. Milbank, F. A.
Fortescue, hon. D. F. Mill, J. S.
Foster, W. O. Miller, W.
Gaselee, Serjeant S. Mills, J. R.
Gaskell, J. M. Mitchell, A.
Gavin, Major Mitchell, T. A.
Gibson, rt. hon. T. M. Moffatt, G.
Gilpin, C. Monk, C. J.
Gladstone, rt. hn. W.E. Monsell, rt. hon. W.
Gladstone, W. H. Moore, C.
Glyn, G. G. More, R. J.
Goldsmid, Sir F. H. Morris, W.
Goldsmid, J. Morrison, W.
Goschen, rt. hon. G. J. Murphy, N. D.
Gower, hon. F. L. Nicholson, W.
Graham, W. Norwood, C. M.
Gray, Sir J. O'Beirne, J. L.
Gregory, W. H. O'Brien, Sir P.
Greville-Nugent, Col. O'Conor Don, The
Grey, rt. hon. Sir G. O'Donoghue, The
Gridley, Capt. H. G. Oliphant, L.
Grosvenor, Lord R. O'Loghlen, Sir C. M.
Grove, T. F. Onslow, G.
Gurney, S. O'Reilly, M. W.
Hadfield, G. Osborne, R. B.
Hamilton, E. W. T. Otway, A. J.
Hankey, T. Owen, Sir H. O.
Hanmer, Sir J. Padmore, R.
Harris, J. D. Parry, T.
Hartington, Marquess of Pease, J. W.
Hartley, J. Peel, A. W.
Hay, Lord J. Pelham, Lord
Hayter, Capt. A. D. Pete, Sir S. M.
Headlam, rt. hon. T. E. Philips, R. N.
Henderson, J. Pim, J.
Henley, Lord Platt, J.
Hibbert, J. T. Pollard-Urquhart, W.
Hodgkinson, G. Potter, E.
Holden, I. Potter, T. B.
Holland, E. Price, W. P.
Horsman, rt. hon. E. Pugh, D.
Howard, hon. C. W. G. Rawlinson, Sir H.
Hutt, rt. hon. Sir W. Rebow, J. G.
Ingham, R. Robertson, D.
Jervoise, Sir J. C. Rothschild, Baron M. de
Johnstone, Sir J. Rothschild, N. M. de
Kearsley, Captain R. Russell, A.
Russell, H. Trevelyan, G. O.
St. Aubyn, J. Vandeleur, Colonel
Samuda, J. D' A. Vanderbyl, P.
Samuelson, B. Verney, Sir H.
Scholefield, W. Villiers, rt. hn. C. P.
Scott, Sir W. Vivian, Capt. hn. J. C. W.
Scrope, G. P. Warner, E.
Seely, C. Watkin, E. W.
Seymour, H. D. Weguelin, T. M.
Sherriff, A. C. Western, Sir T. B.
Simeon, Sir J. Whalley. G. H.
Smith, J. Whatman, J.
Smith, J. B. Whitbread, S.
Speirs, A. A. White, J.
Stacpoole, W. Whitworth. B.
Stanley, hon. W. O. Williamson, Sir H.
Stansfeld, J. Winnington, Sir T. E.
Steel, J. Woods, H.
Stock, O. Wyld, J.
Stuart, Col. Crichton- Wyvill, M.
Sullivan, E. Young, G.
Sykes, Col. W. H. Young, R.
Synan, E. J.
Taylor, P. A. TELLERS.
Tomline, G. Hardcastle, J. A.
Torrens, W. T. M'C. Baines, E.
Tracy, hon. C. R. D. Hanbury-
Akroyd, E. Dawson, R. P.
Archdall, Capt. M. Dick, F.
Arkwright, R. Dickson, Major A. G.
Baggallay, R. Dimsdale, R.
Bagge, W. Disraeli, rt. hon. B.
Bagnall, C. Dowdeswell, W. E.
Bailey, Sir J. R. Du Cane, C.
Baillie, rt. hon. H. J. Duncombe, hon. A.
Barnett, H. Duncombe, hon. Col.
Barrington, Viscount Du Pre, C. G.
Barrow, W. H. Dutton, hon. R. H.
Barttelot, Colonel Dyke, W. H.
Bateson, Sir T. Dyott, Colonel R.
Bathurst, A. A. Edwards, Sir H.
Beach, Sir M. H. Egerton, hon. A. F.
Beach, W. W. B. Egerton, E. C.
Beecroft, G. S. Egerton, hon. W.
Bentinck, G. C. Fane, Lt.-Col. H. H.
Benyon, R. Feilden, J.
Bernard, hon. Col. H. B. Fellowes, E.
Bingham, Lord Floyer, J.
Bourne, Colonel Forester, rt. hon. Gen.
Bowen, J. B. Freshfield, C. K.
Bridges, Sir B. W. Garth, R.
Bromley, W. D. Gilpin, Colonel
Brooks, R. Goddard, A. L.
Bruce, C. Goodson, J.
Bruce, Sir H. H. Gore, J. R. O.
Buckley, E. Gore, W. R. O.
Burrell, Sir P. Graves, S. R.
Cartwright, Colonel Gray, Lieut.-Colonel
Cave, rt. hon. S. Greenall, G.
Chatterton, H. E. Greene, E.
Clive, Capt. hon. G. W. Grey, hon. T. de
Cobbold, J. C. Griffith, C. D.
Cochrane, A. D. R. W. B. Hamilton, Lord C.
Cole, hon. H. Hamilton, I. T.
Cole, hon. J. L. Hartopp, E. B.
Cooper. E. H. Harvey, R. B.
Corrance, F. S. Hay, Sir J. C. D.
Cox, W. T. Heathcote, hon. G. H.
Cranbourne, Viscount Heathcote, Sir W.
Cubitt, G. Henley, rt. hon. J. w.
Henniker-Major, hon. J. M. Patten, Colonel W.
Paull, H.
Herbert, hon. Col. P. Powell, F. S.
Hildyard, T. B. T. Read, C. S.
Hodgson, W. N. Repton G. W. J.
Hogg, Lt.-Col. J. M. Ridley, Sir M. W.
Holford, R. S. Robertson, P. F.
Holmesdale, Viscount Russell, Sir C.
Hotham, Lord Schreiber, C.
Hubbard, J. G. Sclater-Booth, G.
Hunt, G. W. Scourfield, J. H.
Innes, A. C. Selwin, H. J.
Jervis, Major Selwyn, C. J.
Jolliffe, hon. H. H. Severne, J. E.
Karslake, Sir J. B. Seymour, G. H.
Karslake, E. K. Simonds, W. B.
Kavanagh, A. Smith, A.
Kekewich, S. T. Stanhope, J. B.
Kendall, N. Stanley, hon. F.
King, J. K. Stopford, S. G.
King, J. G. Stuart, Lt.-Col. W.
Knight, F. W. Stucley, Sir G. S.
Knightley, Sir R. Surtees, F.
Langton, W. G. Surtees, H. E.
Lechmere, Sir E. A. H. Sykes, C.
Legh, Major C. Taylor, Colonel
Lennox, Lord G. G. Thorold, Sir J. H.
Lennox, Lord H. G. Tollemache, J.
Lindsay, hon. Col. C. Tottenham, Lt.-Col. C. G
Lowther, J. Treeby, J. W.
Mainwaring, T. Vance, J.
Malcolm, J. W. Verner, E. W.
Manners, rt. hn. Lord J. Verner, Sir W.
Manners, Lord G. J. Walcott, Admiral
Meller, Colonel Walker, Major G. G.
Montgomery. Sir G. Walpole, rt. hon. S. H.
Mordaunt, Sir C. Walrond, J. W.
Morgan, O. Walsh, A.
Morgan, hon. Major Walsh, Sir J.
Mowbray, rt. hon. J. R. Waterhouse, S.
Naas, Lord Welby, W. E.
Neeld, Sir J. Whitmore, H.
Neville-Grenville, R. Wise, H. C.
Newdegate, C. N. Woodd, B. T.
Newport, Viscount Wyndham, hon. H.
Noel, hon. G. J. Wyndham, hon. P.
North, Colonel Wynn, C. W. W.
Northcote, rt. hn. Sir S. H. Wynne, W. R. M.
O'Neill, E. Yorke, J. R.
Packe, Colonel
Paget, R. H. TELLERS.
Palk, Sir L. Hope, B.
Parker. Major W. Gorst, J. E.